Print the Legend

Photography and the American West

Martha A. Sandweiss

View Inside Price: $42.00


April 10, 2004
420 pages, 6.69 x 9.61
148 b/w illus. + duotones throughout
ISBN: 9780300103151
Paper

Also available in:
Cloth

This prize-winning book tells the intertwined stories of photography and the American West—a new medium and a new place that came of age together in the nineteenth century.
“Excellent . . . rewarding . . . a provocative look at the limits of photography as recorder of history—and its role in perpetuating myth.”—Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News
“A sophisticated and engaging exploration of photography and the West . . . A really handsome work.”—James McWilliams, Austin Chronicle
“A wonderful book.”—Vernon Peter, Sunday Oregonian
“A deliciously intelligent new book . . . so engrossing you can’t stop reading.”—Michael More, Albuquerque Journal
Print the Legend belongs on that short shelf of essential books about the American West.”—James P. Ronda, University of Tulsa

Martha A. Sandweiss is professor of history and American studies at Amherst College.

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“Sandweiss summons the shadows of culture that have hidden behind photographs from the American West. And from this archaeology, she creates noble arguments for a visual literacy just as privileged as any word.”—Dr. Anthony Bannon, Director, George Eastman House

“Sandweiss has written splendidly about the American West and an American craft and how the two evolved together. Beyond that, she shows us how much we can learn by studying how Americans, quite literally, have pictured themselves.”—Elliott West, University of Arkansas

"Martha Sandweiss deserves special praise for her pioneering book on photography and the American West. She has identified numerous unknown photographers who so effectively shaped our image of the Western frontier. Told in a delightful, often wry and humorous narrative style, Print the Legend is a major new history of photography that also provides us with a richer, more insightful history of how we came to visualize the American West."—Howard R. Lamar, Yale University
"Martha Sandweiss deserves special praise for her pioneering book on photography and the American West. She has identified scores of unknown photographers who so effectively shaped our image of the Western frontier. The stunning result is a major new history of photography that also provides us with a richer, more insightful history of how we came to visualize the American West."—Howard R. Lamar, Yale University

“This is one of those remarkable, compelling books that comes along only when a distinguished scholar meets a great subject. The best historians make the commonplace new and strange. Martha A. Sandweiss does that in Print the Legend, her extraordinary journey into the photographs of the American West. Most collections of western photographs ask us to look at images from the past; Sandweiss calls readers to listen to the stories that swirl around those images. Like the images themselves, those stories are revelations of times past and present. No one writes about western photography with more grace and skill than Martha Sandweiss. Her command of the subject is evident on every page. This is one of those rare books that makes us appreciate ourselves and our varied pasts in new and fresh ways. Print the Legend belongs on that short shelf of essential books about the American West.”—James P. Ronda, Barnard Professor of Western American History, University of Tulsa  

“This is one of those remarkable, compelling books that comes along only when a distinguished scholar meets a great subject. No one writes about western photography with more grace and skill than Martha Sandweiss. Print the Legend belongs on that short shelf of essential books about the American West.”—James P. Rhonda, Barnyard Professor of Western American History, University of Tulsa

Print the Legend privileges the lecture course or seminar on the American West with a wisdom unavailable in standard histories. By taking the narrative into previously unexplored territory, the reader gains a richer understanding about the place, its history, and its many interpreters.”—L.G. Moses, Department of History, Oklahoma State University

“In the West, perhaps more than anywhere else in the United States, Americans think that pictures tell the story, but western photographs are as treacherous as they are compelling. Their seeming simplicity masks their ideological complexity, and no one that I have read conveys their interest and elucidates their complexity and treachery as wonderfully as Martha Sandweiss. This is not a book about debunking the West; it is a book about how the production and consumption of photographs has produced multiple Wests.”—Richard White, Stanford University

"An engrossing account of the ways in which early photographers created a triumphalist version of the American West. From daguerreotype to wet plate to Kodak, from painting to wood cut to lithograph, Professor Sandweiss explores the visual imagery of the West and the westward movement. A pioneering study and a readable story."—Robert M. Utley, author of Lone Star Legend: The First Century of the Texas Rangers

"Deliciously intelligent. . . . Again and again, Sandweiss proves how spectacle, myth, and legend trump reality by way of slaking our thirsty imaginations. . . . Rarely are photo histories this well written—so engrossing you can’t stop reading."—Michael More, Albuquerque Journal North

"It offers a context for modern students to see the past, to understand the issues of cultural heritage, to appreciate that many Indians insisted on photographs, and to comprehend that Indian photography occurred in a bicultural context. . . . Sandweiss grants the boon of offering a stellar example of how to address controversial issues in a scholarly way. . . . [The book] provides valuable information and context for the greater understanding of the American Indian experience from a non-Indian studies perspective. [It] offers images and interpretation of the Indian experience not found elsewhere."—Greg Gagnon, American Indian Quarterly

“What makes Sandweiss’s account so striking is her skillful linkage of technology, material form, economic imperative, and cultural utility. . . . A rich and superbly documented argument about the importance of narrative in photography of the American West. [Sandweiss is] a supreme storyteller. . . . Print the Legend might well be called Martha Sandweiss’s magnum opus, so brilliantly does it demonstrate the power of locating photographic history in the social, political, and economic contexts that created visual images and that provided the setting for their interpretation.”—Steven Hoelscher, American Quarterly

"A sophisticated and engaging exploration of photography and the West not seen since the Goetzmans (pere et fils) offered up West of the Imagination in the mid-Eighties. With its interdisciplinary focus, multicultural breadth, and the assumption that cultural images are essentially powerful social constructions, Print the Legend lays bare a trove of historical photographs as ’sources of meaning in and of themselves’. . . . Through lucid prose, an obvious and genuine admiration for her documents, and a tendency to push her thesis with Sisyphean determination, [Sandweiss] decisively shows how ’photographers working in the West understood the potential historical value of their work’. . . . A really handsome work."—James McWilliams, Austin (TX) Chronicle

“Art historians interested in nineteenth-century photography in the United States should get their hands on a copy, because for them this book is not merely important but indispensable. . . . This book reads not only as a summation of many well-spent years in the archives, but also as a summation of a certain moment in the historical study of photography. . . . Sandweiss has given us an essential addition to the literature on nineteenth-century American photography, which is a profound and very welcome achievement.”—Robin Kelsey, CAA Reviews

"Art historians interested in nineteenth-century photography in the United States should get their hands on a copy, because for them this book is not merely important but indispensable. . . . Scholars will be paying their respects to Sandweiss for generations to come. . . . This book reads not only as a summation of many well-spent years in the archives, but also as a summation of a certain moment in the historical study of photography. . . . The virtues of this splendid book will endure. Sandweiss has given us an essential addition to the literature on nineteenth-century American photography, which is a profound and very welcome achievement."—Robin Kelsey, College Art Association Reviews

"[Sandweiss] offers a delightfully clearheaded and fresh appraisal of the way her chosen subjects are intimately related in Print the Legend. . . . [An] exemplary history."—Robert L. Pincus, Copley News Service

"Sandweiss’ breadth is impressive, as she tracks such matters as photography and the American Indian, photography and government enterprise, and most interesting, photography and the American future."—Chris Vognar, Dallas Morning News

"Scholarly and enlightening."—Betsy Friauf, Fort Worth (TX) Star-Telegram

“This is a rich and creative account, conveyed in a smooth style and supported by deep historical research, Sandweiss mined dozens of archives for photographic material. . . . Rare among histories of photography, Print the Legend will move easily between the libraries and coffee tables of Western historians and cultural historians.”—Christopher Capozzola, Gateway Heritage

"Lucidly written and extremely readable. . . . This invaluable book for both students of photography and American History tackles the relatively new field of photographically illustrated books by looking at historical photographs and their relationship to other forms of visual representation in the 19th century. . . . Engaging. . . . Sandweiss’s book is hopefully not the end of the discussion, but rather an invitation for more investigation into the fields of photography, photographic books, and correlating images of the American West."—Melissa Renn, In the Loupe

“A magnificent work and a definitive synthesis of the nineteenth-century West’s photographic visual culture. . . . Print the Legend triumphs as the definitive work on western history and photographic visual culture, a magisterial accomplishment that will be a starting point for social and cultural historians of the trans-Mississippi west.”—Elspeth H. Brown, Journal of American History

"Passionate and compassionate. . . . Sandweiss makes a valuable contribution toward better understanding the uses of photography by historians . . . and members of the general public."—Library Journal

“The book sets a high standard for scholars of western photography and western historians of every stripe, one that will stand for years to come. It is essential reading.”—Michael J. Lansing, Western Historical Quarterly

“Martha Sandweiss deserves special praise for this groundbreaking study of photographs and the American West. Not since I read Robert Taft’s Photography and the American Scene years ago has a book so intrigued and engaged me. My only hope is that it will similarly inspire other historians to explore more seriously the richness of the visual record.”—Delores J. Morrow, Montana: The Magazine of Western History

“This valuable book is notably important for two reasons. It not only displays Martha Sandweiss’s nonpareil knowledge of photographs of the nineteenth-century American West, but it also helpfully instructs historians and general readers on how to rethink their study and use of photographs. This handsome book, superbly presented on glossy paper and in appealing layout, overflows with valuable insights from the country’s leading authority on photography and the American West. A thoughtful, easy-to-follow study, the volume will appeal to historians, students of photography, and nonspecialist readers.”—Richard W. Etulain, Oregon Historical Quarterly
 
Print the Legend is now the best volume available on the intertwined story of photography and the American West. Smoothly written, invitingly published, and expansive in its research, Martha Sandweiss’s much-praised study belongs on the top shelf of books about the cultural history of the American West.”—Richard W. Etulain, Oregon Historical Quarterly

"Splendid. . . . Panoramic in its sweeping scope, narrative sequencing, and clarity of vision. . . . Print the Legend is a compendious work of insightful historical exploration. . . . A fascinating and important volume, richly deserving the Ray Billington Prize awarded by the Organization of American Historians. Although Print the Legend does not attempt or pretend to be comprehensive, the thoroughness of Sandweiss’s research almost makes it feel exhaustive. . . . Sandweiss has given us a truly remarkable book, written with clarity and grace, and superbly illustrated with many unfamiliar images and shrewd juxtapositions of photographs and the more fanciful lithographs that embellished them."—Michael Kammen, Reviews in American History

"[Sandweiss] offers a delightfully clear-headed and fresh appraisal of the way her chosen subjects are intimately related. . . . [She] does a riveting job of recreating the pictures’ context. . . . The power of the photograph was not to be denied, and Sandweiss traces its rise in this exemplary history."—Robert L. Pincus, San Diego Union-Tribune

“An important cultural history of American photography. . . . Insightful and groundbreaking. It is a major addition to the study of American culture and the history of image making.”—Francine Carraro, Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"A wonderful book. Sandweiss is an engaging writer, demonstrating on every page her sympathy for those thousands of Westerners, mostly anonymous now, whose images are stored in the vast archives of state and local historical societies and museums."—Vernon Peter, Sunday Oregonian

“The range and excellent quality of the photographic reproductions add greatly to the richness of this work.”—The Annals of Iowa

Print the Legend is a landmark publication. . . . This book should be compulsory reading for all those writing the history of photography. It is also recommended to specialists in the field of cultural studies. In addition, this admirably written history can be enjoyed by the broad public. Martha A. Sandweiss’s work serves as a stimulating model of how to write history today.”—Jan Baetens, The History of Photography

“Engaging, insightful, and impressive, this landmark book expands significantly our understanding of the American West and its visual representation. Sandweiss redefines photographs as historical documents through her thoughtful attention to the shifting dynamics of technology, memory, and audience. All studies of the importance of photography in American cultural history will need to measure up to this superb accomplishment.”—Lye A. Miner II, Western Historical Quarterly

“Print the Legend provides a fascinating glimpse into the way that photography helped shape our understanding of the American West and, in return, how public myths and legends influenced the approach of photographers.”—David L. Boren, President of the University of Oklahoma and Former United States Senator

Winner of the 2002 Ray Allen Billington Prize given annually by the Organization of American Historians for the best book in American frontier history

Winner of the 2003 William P. Clements Prize, awarded by Southern Methodist University to the best non-fiction book on Southwestern America

Winner of the 2004 Barbara Sudler Award sponsored by the Colorado Historical Society
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